Don’t rely on the tank: WNBA sweepstakes rules out intentional Lynx losses

Lynx enters Sunday’s game in Las Vegas with a 3-12 record, the last of the 12 WNBA teams.

There are many reasons for this. Veteran signing Angel McCoughtry didn’t work out when it became clear as training camp ended that she had not sufficiently recovered from knee surgery. Same for Layshia Clarendon. The team was not convinced the veteran’s stress reaction – an injury sustained at the end of the 2021 season – would hold up.

It has caused quite a number of injuries this season and the possibility of Lynx going for an entire season without Napheesa Collier, who recently gave birth to her first child.

There are some people who feel it would be better for Lynx to stay put. Perhaps Tank, with former Hopkins potentially rupturing and current Connecticut star Paige Bakers, should she decide to enter Project 2023.

It’s not that simple.

First, Sheryl Reeve, Lynx coach and general manager, is not the type of competitor who would like to go down that path.

Second, the rules surrounding the WNBA draft lottery could render any attempt to thwart the Lynx futile.

Unlike nearly every other professional league in the United States, the WNBA Draft Lottery doesn’t base its odds solely on the season that has just ended.

Here’s how it works:

Four of the 12-team teams in the WNBA do not play the playoffs each season and enter the league’s draft lottery.

Once these four teams are created, the league looks at the total record of the four teams over the past two seasons, not just the recently concluded one.

And since Lynx went 22-10 and finished third in 2021, it will be very difficult for Minnesota to have the best odds of getting the top pick.

After Friday’s games, the four teams eliminated from the WNBA playoffs were Los Angeles (5-8), Phoenix (6-10), Indiana (4-13) and Lynx (3-12).

This means, at this point, that lottery rankings including last year’s records will have Indiana (10-39) with the best chance of winning the top pick, followed by Los Angeles (17-28), Minnesota (25-22) and Phoenix. (25-23).

This means Indiana will have a 44.2% chance of winning the top pick, Los Angeles 27.6%, Minnesota 17.8% and Phoenix 10.4%.

After the two best picks are made, the lottery ends, with three picks and four picks set by the overall record.

The rules regarding the lottery were changed in 2015.

Many feel the main reason is what happened in Phoenix during the 2012 season, when some accused Mercury of deliberately throwing the season away to get a major spot in the 2013 draft.

This season, Diana Torassi played only eight matches. Mercury lost 18 of its last 21 games and finished second to last with a score of 7-27. Mercury then won the sweepstakes that followed and picked center Britney Greiner with the top pick in the draft.

After two seasons, Mercury went to 29-5 during the regular season and went on to win his third WNBA title.

Fifteen games in the 36-game season, the Lynx is three games of the final game venue. If the team returns to relative health — superstar Sylvia Fowles and backup Natalie Achonwa both recently returned to training — the Lynx could still maintain their playoff streak by qualifying for a 12th consecutive season. Should that happen, and if Collier recovers quickly and finds herself able to rejoin the team late in the season, Lynx could find herself in a position to be a disqualification spoiler.